|Kathryn Grayson and Frank Sinatra|
"You kiss women you don't even know, whom you've never been introduced to?"
Ricardo (Frank Sinatra) comes down to California in a pre-statehood period to take over his late father's business. Unfortunately Ricardo thinks his father's business is an inn which is really just the front for the man's true activities as the notorious "kissing bandit," who terrorized the land but made all the ladies swoon. Ricardo's friend Chico (J. Carrol Naish) tries to groom the young man to take over as the bandit, but the problem is that shy Ricardo hasn't kissed a girl in his life! Further complications ensue when a tax man arrives from Spain, the snooty Count Belmont (Carleton G. Young), accompanied by his security chief General Toro (Billy Gilbert); Ricardo and Chico wind up impersonating them at the home of Don Jose (Mikhail Rasumny of Her Husband's Affairs), whose beautiful daughter Teresa (Kathryn Grayson) has fallen for Ricardo and vice versa. Frank Sinatra gives one of his best performances -- playing a milquetoast with no experience with the ladies! -- in The Kissing Bandit, and is both charming and amusing, resisting any attempts to wink at the audience and suggest he's really a "stud." Naish is simply superb as Chico, losing himself, as this fine actor generally does, in his comical characterization. Grayson with her beautiful voice is lovely and adept. Mildred Natwick [Peyton Place] scores as Teresa's Aunt Isabella, who tells her niece at the approach of the Kissing Bandit on the highway that she "will make the sacrifice" and get kissed by the notorious bandit instead; Isabella also develops a hankering for Chico/General Toro. Clinton Sundberg [Living in a Big Way] is notable as the servile Gomez, as are Young and Gilbert. The score is quite nice, with such numbers as "Tomorrow Brings Romance;" "Siesta;" "Love is Where You Find It;" and, especially, "If I Steal Your Heart." [The composers are not credited but Andre Previn may have been one of them.] Another highlight is a lively dance number with Ricardo Montalban, Ann Miller, and Cyd Charisse.
Verdict: Cute and very entertaining MGM musical with wonderful performances from all. ***.